How the Arizona Attorney General Created a Secret, Illegal Program to Find Millions of Our Financial Records | News & Information | American Civil Liberties Union

Last year, Sen. Ron Wyden raise the alarm about one of the largest federal surveillance programs in recent memory. Sen. expressed. Wyden said that the Arizona attorney general’s office, in cooperation with the Phoenix Field Office of the Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations, worked on the unintended collection of money laundering records. for transactions over $500 sent to or from Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas, as well as to or from Mexico. Whenever anyone in the US uses a company like Western Union or MoneyGram to send or receive money in one of these states or Mexico – or send to send money home, or help a family member in an emergency, or pay a bill – if records of their transactions were stored in a records are controlled by the Arizona attorney general and shared with other law enforcement agencies.

The announcement of Sen. Wyden left important questions about the scope and legality of this program unanswered, so the ACLU and the ACLU of Arizona issued a public records request to the Arizona attorney general’s office to learn more. Today, we are sharing more than 200 documents it explained this massive surveillance of America’s sensitive financial information.

The records show that the state of Arizona has issued at least 140 criminal charges against money transfer companies to force them to turn over customers’ financial information, collect it in a large database and give it away. unrestricted access to thousands of officers from hundreds of law enforcement agencies. throughout the country. The database, run by an organization called the Transaction Record Analysis Center (TRAC), contains 145 million records of people’s financial transactions by 2021, and there is reason to believe that which is still growing.

Western Union, MoneyGram, and other financial services companies often serve people who may not have access to bank accounts or traditional financial services, such as migrant workers who send money back home and people without points. Since people in rural areas rely more on these services than traditional banks, the burden of this government oversight falls. failure on those who are more vulnerable to law enforcement.

In addition, the secrecy surrounding the law restricting access to the TRAC database has many implications for people who are accused of crimes based on these records but may not have been aware of them. used to study. We now know of three criminal charges involving TRAC records, but this is certainly a small fraction, and prosecutors and judges need to know more.

Much of this law enforcement monitoring goes back to 2006. That year, Arizona’s attorney general tried to identify money transfers linked to illegal activity and decided to issuing legal sanctions to Western Union to find information about all money transfers for more than $ 300 or from a particular state in Mexico. Western Union – one of the largest businesses in the world-money transfer – opposed to requests, and a state appeals court held that the subpoena violated Arizona law in several ways and represented a bid for “unlimited” investigative powers. Dissatisfied with the Arizona attorney general, Western Union was sued under a state anti-money laundering law, and in 2010 the two sides reached a settlement. Western Union agreed to transfer records of all money transfers of more than $500 to or from the southwest border and to or from Mexico for the next four year.

The parties signed a second agreement in 2014, which both continued the requirement that Western Union return customer data, and also established TRAC, an independent organization to provide all data. In fact, TRAC was funded by hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments from Western Union and managed by the Arizona attorney general’s office.

After the second settlement in 2019, the Arizona attorney general’s office turned to the Department of Homeland Security, which began issuing sanctions to Western Union and ordered the company to continue turning over the data. sensitive financial costs of customers in TRAC. We now know that it is against the law of the government that the petitions were written, and when Sen. Wyden questions about their use in early 2022, DHS removed.

But it’s not just Western Union. Reported by Sen. Wyden says many other companies are also sending customer financial statements to TRAC, but there is little public information about the companies, how this happens, or why — until now. .

Report immediately describes disclosure to TRAC by money transfer companies other than Western Union as “arbitrary.” We now know that is not true.

From 2014 to 2021, it was issued by Arizona’s attorney general 140 executive order in money transfer companies, the company periodically requests records of customer transactions for the next year. Those requests were issued under the same law that the Arizona Court of Appeals held in 2006 cannot be used for these types of illegal requests for financial records. That means the Arizona attorney general’s office knowingly issued 140 illegal subpoenas create a collection of records.

The documents we obtained show the extent of this surveillance program. According to the minutes of the TRAC meetings we received, the database of people’s financial records grew from 75 million records from 14 financial service businesses. in 2017 to 145 million records from 28 different companies in 2021. By 2021, 12,000 people from 600 law enforcement agencies were given direct access to the database. In May 2022, more than 700 law enforcement agencies have had or still have access to the TRAC database, ranging from the sheriff’s office in a small county in Idaho, to the Los Angeles and New York police departments, to federal law enforcement agencies and military police units.

Our review is internal TRAC data showing 440 local organizations, 80 state offices, 53 federal offices, and 152 special offices of special federal offices that can be found in this personal information database. These records also indicate that TRAC strongly encourages the use of these records by these agencies; inside one year TRAC staff alone conducted 32 training sessions for over 550 new users.

The data also shows that the federal government is more involved in the surveillance program than it used to be. One paper It is reported that the Drug Enforcement Administration issued a subpoena to a money-processing company for customer records, resulting in more data to add to TRAC. And the minutes of the TRAC Board meetings explain that Immigration and Customs and Customs and Border Protection TRAC’s budget began to be funded after the settlement with Western Union.

Most of the humanity of this type of government surveillance is very bad. It can have far-reaching consequences for people’s lives – especially for people of color, who are targeted for surveillance. This is especially bad because everyday people are subject to unenforceable surveillance, and the government is allowed to collect information about millions of people’s daily activities without a warrant. This kind of routine surveillance is bad, and it chills the kind of speech and interaction that democracy depends on.

These statistics paint a bleak picture of government overreach. The government should not be allowed to misuse signatures and destroy millions of records on many people without any basis for suspicion. This money surveillance program is built on constant violations of the law and should be shut down.

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